Meet Kathie Sever, our next #FREDAGIRL. Sever is a California born, Texas resident who is shaping the face of fashion with her signature chainstitched designs that incorporate classic western style with thread based story-telling. Kathie is a mom, wife, and designer who launched into the fashion industry with a children’s brand, Ramonster, then realized she wanted to create fashion with a real purpose. Steering away from fast fashion and into one a kind designs, Kathie has become a favorite among celebrities and everyday cool kids. We got the chance to talk more with Kathie about her personal journey and the adventures that have led to Fort Lonesome today.
1. Walk us through your journey from art school, to Montana and eventually settling in Austin. How did Ft. Lonesome come to be? What’s in a name?
Oh jeepers. That’s a long journey. Art school in Northern California studying Oil Painting turned into ranch-handing and self-discovery in the middle of a remote and beautiful valley in Montana, which turned into a failed attempt at getting into grad school in Boston (but living there anyway), which turned into moving to Austin, where my boyfriend (now husband) had decided to settle and check out the music scene, which turned into years in kitchens pastry-cheffing… Then came babies, and career shifts, and a children’s clothing line inspired by vintage western wear called Ramonster (after my daughter Ramona), wherein I learned that I don’t have the constitution for manufacturing…. somewhere around 2004 I acquired a vintage chain-stitch embroidery machine that gave me much difficulty for many hundreds of hours spent struggling with (there was no information at the time accessibly available at the time, much has changed in the last few years!)…. that chain-stitch machine then became a bit of an obsession and birthed the rebranding and rebuilding of my business in 2012 into its current incarnation, Fort Lonesome. Whew. Wow. Anyone else need a drink? The name Fort Lonesome came from my connection to the word Lonesome, which became something of a prayer/mantra/comfort for me during my time in Montana, where I was alone, but not lonely, where I was confronted with vast empty space to contemplate and regenerate, where the word lonesome felt like a perfect description of the fullness of the emptiness, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
2. Tell us about the team at Ft. Lonesome. How have you grown from a one-woman shop to a full fledge team? What are the biggest challenges, surprises, and delights of running a small business?
We’re a team of 9! Crazy pants! We’ve grown quite quickly, which has had its challenges for real, but I have somehow lucked out in finding a team of core employees who are truly some of the most loyal, talented, creative, committed, hilarious, smart, inspiring people I know. They’ve stuck with me through a very turbulent few years of rapid change and total chaos, which kind of blows my mind when I think back to some of my more fantastically out-of-body stressed out moments. If it weren’t for them creating such a solid foundation for me to continually return to, I can’t imagine that Fort Lonesome would have gotten very far. The biggest challenge for me has been having to hand over much of the creative work we do to the team (who, luckily for me, bring way more to the table collectively than I could ever hope to bring solo) so that I can take the wheel and steer the ship. My days are often filled with meetings, returning emails, creating work-flow, answering technical questions, etc etc. The business has given us the opportunity to travel and meet folks from all over who are doing interesting things- that’s a thing that I enjoy that came as a surprise. I never anticipated that my business would involve so much traipsing around the country!
3. We love the concept of ‘thread based storytelling.’ Can you explain a bit more about what that entails? What is your creative process from initial concept to final product?
We listen to our clients speak about the objects, places, and stories that are meaningful to them, and then we do our best to spin those ideas into imagery. We start with a drawing, then once the drawing has been seen and approved by the client, we work up the embroidery. We most enjoy working on garments that are provided by the clients with stories attached to the garments pre-embroidery… a beloved denim jacket that belonged to a clients father, etc…
4. You have worked with a pretty incredible roster of diverse brands and clients. Do you have a favorite project or client (past or present)? What about this particular project makes it so special?
I can’t choose a favorite, because too many of the projects have had really special elements that have been unique, and challenging, and deeply satisfying.
5. Who is your style inspiration?
Nudie Cohn and Georgia O’Keefe.
6. Words to live by?
These. I always return to these:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.